Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Diane Ravitch Speaks Out

The Answer Sheet blog publishes an interview with Diane Ravitch.  I applaud Ravitch for her efforts to give voice to "[p]eople [who] are worried about what is happening today; they detest NCLB and they now realize that Race to the Top is more of the same and probably worse"  She is, however. too optimistic when she says,  "As a historian, I cling to the belief that bad ideas eventually lose steam and that evidence will eventually prevail."

When asked what she'd tell President Obama about educational reform, she replies.
I would tell him that charter schools in the aggregate don’t get better results than regular public schools. I would tell him that his push to have teachers evaluated by student test scores is wrong, and that standards for evaluation should be designed by professionals, not by politicians. I would urge him to stop using language of failing, punishing, closing, and firing and speak instead of improving, building, supporting, and encouraging. I would urge him to think about ways of strengthening American public education because it is one of the foundational elements of our democracy. I would urge him to speak about the importance of a strong curriculum for all kids in every school, one that includes the arts, history, literature, foreign languages, civics, economics, physical education, science, and mathematics. I would urge him to recognize that high-stakes testing in basic skills steals time from everything else that should be taught and that it is thus undermining education. I would also implore him not to recommend testing every other subject, as there would soon be no time for instruction, only testing. [Emphasis mine]
Ravitich begins the previous statement by saying that she would tell the President "to change course before it is too late."  I fear it already is.  Ravitch herself admits,
. . . . I have met with many Democratic members of Congress. I have met some really impressive members who understand how destructive the current "reform" movement is. Many agree with me that the emphasis on evaluating teachers will simply produce more teaching to the test, more narrowing the curriculum, more gaming the system. They have heard from their constituents, and they don’t like what is going on. But frankly, these same Congressmen and women tell me that they are probably helpless to stop the President’s agenda. The Democratic leadership will give the President and Secretary Duncan what they want, and they will have the support of Republicans. That leaves the Democrats in a quandary. They were not happy to see Secretary Duncan campaigning for his approach with Newt Gingrich. Maybe it will turn out to be a winning strategy for Secretary Duncan. He may get what he wants. It just won’t be good for American education or our kids. [Emphasis mine.]
In short, it seems as education will be the bipartisan issue.  Both sides will agree to destroy the public schools.  The Republicans will do so to get revenge on the teachers unions who have supported Democrats for most of my lifetime.  The Democrats will be content to throw teachers under the bus because that support has been so unwavering that teachers probably have no chance of being heard by Republicans.

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